Monday, November 15, 2010

Will TEEB end the economy vs. environment debate?

How valuable are forests and wetlands? Economics largely takes nature, biodiversity, and environmental services for granted and does not put a value on them. These services include water and air quality regulation, nutrient cycling and decomposition, plant pollination, and flood control. As a result, governments, businesses, and people tend to overexploit the resources on which our livelihoods and prosperity depend.

It is against this background that The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project was set up in 2007 to provide an assessment of the economic aspects of these issues. A groundbreaking new book, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Ecological and Economic Foundations, outlines all of the scientific and economic principles of measuring and valuing environmental services and biodiversity.

The effort furthers the work of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which issued a major scientific review in 2005 of the status and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide, as well as recommendations for action to manage them more sustainably. The head of the TEEB project is Pavan Sukhdev, a Deutsche Bank economist who also leads UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative.

The book was launched at the COP10 Nagoya Biodiversity Summit in Japan and is recommended for a detailed review of the latest research in environmental economics and the valuation of natural resources. The TEEB project has also launched a website, Bank of Natural Capital, to make its findings more accessible to the public.

The hope is that the thorough scientific and economic analysis behind the TEEB studies will put and end to the popular debate about the economy versus the environment, and correct the market failures that lead to the unsustainable use of natural capital.